Reviews|

Eat My Heart Out by Zoe Pilger

15th Jan 2014

★★★
Zoe-Pilger-Eat-My-Heart-Out
This foul-mouthed, funny and fierce début author has already been compared to everyone from Sylvia Plath to Sheila Heti via Nancy Mitford and Lena Dunham. But does the brash, angry, insecure and unapologetic anti-heroine of her first book live up to the hype?

Published at the end of the month by Serpents Tail, Eat My Heart Out tells the story of Ann-Marie, a confused and conflicted twenty-something fuck-up, living in London and looking for love in all the wrong places.

Heartbroken, alienated and angry after a mental breakdown that wrecks her chances at graduating and her relationship with first love Sebastian, Ann-Marie is surviving – just – by working the door at a Soho restaurant and sublimating her grief and fury into a series of ridiculously epic and extreme misadventures.

In the course of terrorising everyone she comes into contact with, Ann-Marie’s confessional and apologetic first-person account showcases and satirises her paranoia, obsessiveness and extreme narcissism – as well as a desperate but endearing conviction that love will lead to redemption.

But Ann-Marie’s stream of consciousness isn’t always comfortable, or even coherent. As our (anti-)heroine unravels, so too does the narrative of Eat My Heart Out, as Ann-Marie hurtles from ironic warehouse parties to naked cleaning jobs via a forced appearance on Woman’s Hour, an audition for a neo-burlesque pop-up strip club, hotel dalliances with an older gentleman and much more besides.

Ann-Marie's confessional and apologetic first-person account showcases and satirises her paranoia, obsessiveness and extreme narcissism - as well as a desperate but endearing conviction that love will lead to redemption.And although feminist icon Stephanie Haight initially seems like an unlikely mentor who might be able to rescue Ann-Marie from self-destruction (thereby symbolically saving her entire generation), we soon discover Stephanie has just as many demons, misguided beliefs and insecurities of her own.

Realising her role model’s fallibility is a bitter pill for Ann-Marie, but she’s had plenty of practice with the recreational class A’s, and continues on her previous path, complete with an eclectic array of sharply-observed characters and situations, rendered in biting, blistering language and lurid technicolour.

A post-feminist, female equivalent of Bret Easton Ellis, Zoe Pilger is definitely one to watch; her writing is fast-paced, audacious, disjointed and dizzying, perfectly capturing the volatility, frustration, fear and arrogance of being young.

While you won’t always empathise with or even understand Ann-Marie’s actions in Eat My Heart Out, there’s no denying that her journey is a rollercoaster ride; although its ups and downs might make you queasy, it’s sure to take your breath away.